Looking forward, looking back

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Janus: the Roman god of transitions, beginnings and endings

This week, at the end of the academic year, I have been conducting my assemblies with students and talking about the Roman god Janus. Janus was always depicted with two faces: one, looking forward into the future; the other, looking back into the past. I have been doing some Janus-like reflection as we reach the end of this year and look forward to the next.

Olympic lessons

I started this year on the Headteacher’s blog with Lessons from the Olympics. Inspired by Rio 2016, I looked back on the inspiration of Ruby Harrold, a Churchill alumnus who represented Team GB in gymnastics. This week it was my pleasure to meet Ruby, who passed on her inspiration to some stars of the future.

Churchill at 60

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We have all been looking back this year on the history of Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, both on this blog and on the dedicated page on our website. This week, I had the great privilege of meeting Ivan Devereux, our first ever Head Boy, who joined the brand new secondary school in 1957 from the old V.C. Church of England school which used to stand by the crossroads. He remembered starting in the very first classes, including the names of the teachers listed in the School Log Book! He was given a tour of the Academy by our new Tudor House Captains, and showed us the dictionary he was given as Head Boy with a signed bookplate from the first Headmaster, Reginald Dennis. I was fascinated by the old school badge: like our current one, it reflects the four houses of Windsor, Stuart, Hanover and Tudor, but using symbols instead of colours. House pride has been part of the school for as long as there has been a school here! It was fitting, therefore that this week I have officially welcomed our new House Captains with their embroidered polo shirts at our Celebration of Success events.

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Looking ahead, we have our 60th Anniversary Gala Evening to mark 60 years since the official opening of the school taking place on 23rd September. You can buy your tickets here for what promises to be an incredible night to celebrate the history and the future of Churchill.

The Academy Site

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Looking back over the course of this year it’s hard to believe that the Alan Turing Building was an empty patch of earth in September, and is now a fully operational facility for our students with brand-new computer rooms and classrooms. Looking ahead, work is due to start in August on our fourteen-classroom Science and Technology building, which will transform the opportunities for students in those subjects and lead to the decommissioning of the original 1956 Tudor building.

Over the summer there are lots of other works going on across the Academy to redevelop our learning environment, including the new Student Services facility above the Library and brand new study facilities for our Sixth Formers.

Rest, relax, recharge

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The students and the staff have worked really hard this year, pushing themselves to go that extra mile every single day. At this week’s Celebration of Success events, it has been a privilege to recognise some of those hardworking, dedicated students and present them with their certificates. I wish everyone in the Churchill Academy & Sixth Form community a restful and relaxing summer break, and look forward to seeing you in September refreshed, recharged and ready for the next challenge!

Activities Week 2017

Activities Week is a great opportunity for students to learn something new, beyond their “normal” curriculum. I am really proud that Churchill continues to run such a diverse, engaging and exciting Activities Week programme, which this year has included (to name a few) animation, archery, art, beauty, bushcraft, cake decorating, candle making, chess, circus skills, cookery, computing, crafts, cycling, dancing, driving, film studies, first aid, football, frisbee, golf, horse riding, illustration, jewellery, journalism, sailing, shooting, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, textiles and a trip to the zoo! We’ve also given students experiences abroad, with trips to France, Belgium and Italy as well as the popular Surf Trip to Cornwall.

Activities week shows that learning isn’t just about what goes on in the classroom, but stretches far beyond. As well as learning to surf, or ride a horse, or make a scented candle, students are learning about collaborating with others who they may not usually get the chance to work with. And, of course, to enjoy themselves in the process!

Ten things I loved about Sports Day 2017

Sports Day Banner

30th June 2017 was Sports Day. For the full results – including the fifteen house records broken on the day – please see the Academy website. Here are ten things I loved about the day.

1. The taking part

It was great to see the winners, but what was even better was to see those students mopping up points for their house by taking part. Even if they walked the 1500m, they still got a point for finishing, and this kind of commitment is fantastic to lift the spirits of the houses.

2. The sporting spirit

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In the high jump, competitors who were out of the competition stayed on to cheer their opponents on as the bar was raised. In the track events, when one competitor stumbled their rival in the next lane stopped to help them up. When athletes were struggling to finish, friends  would step up to run alongside them. Sports Day was about kindness alongside competition.

3. The video

Will Maitland-Round (aka Boris) was wandering round all day with a camera, loading a GoPro onto Jack Panicucci for the sprint, and interviewing competitors and supporters alike. The end product, as the video says, is EPIC.

4. The music

Mr Smith is never happier than when he’s behind the wheels of steel, providing the tunes to soundtrack Sports Day. There was an impromptu outbreak of disco at one point, and One Direction and Carly Rae Jepsen were unexpected hits. Naturally, my personal highlight was not one but two Taylor Swift tracks – although Mr Hart interrupted Love Story so the competitors could hear the gun to start a race. I must speak to Team PE about their priorities… A special mention also to the fantastic Sports day band who put together some brilliant music.

5. The Sixth Form Council

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The Council always do a great job with their Sports Day refreshment stand, but this year they expanded their role, deputising for Mr Smith to DJ (loved the Stevie Wonder!) and throw some shapes of their own. They showed great initiative and teamwork, and were every bit the role models for our younger students to look up to.

6. The House Pride

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It’s a big tradition to deck yourself out in house colours for Sports Day, and as the day went on the extravagance of the face-paint increased. I love the creativity in some of them – and the house pride!

7. The organisation

I love a well-organised event, and Team PE run a very tight ship on Sports Day. Everyone has a job to do, everything runs to time, and everyone pitches in. It’s because every detail has been planned for – and is executed so well – that the day is such a success.

8. The barbecue

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Our catering team put on a fantastic barbecue every year, and this year’s was absolutely delicious – and very popular!

9. The community

More families than ever came along to enjoy Sports Day with us this year, and it was great to bring the Academy community together to celebrate the successes and cheer on the competitors. We were also joined by several of our Academy Governors – our Chair of Governors, Mr Poole, even treated me to an ice-cream!

10. The atmosphere

No photograph or video can truly capture the wonderful atmosphere of a Churchill Academy Sports Day. The warmth and respect in the relationships between staff and students, the teamwork and trust between the staff, and the kindness, sportsmanship and friendly rivalry between the students themselves shone through. It’s one of those rare occasions when the whole student body gathers together, and looking out at everyone as I announced the results it was quite awe-inspiring. Team PE are already planning Sports Day 2018 and they have promised it will be even bigger and even better. I can’t wait!

 

Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme

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We are really proud at Churchill to be an officially licensed organisation to deliver the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. The DofE gives young people a structure and framework to contribute to the community through voluntary work, whilst improving skills and developing confidence, commitment, resilience and teamwork. As I wrote in last week’s blog, I believe that through taking part and making the most of the opportunities presented to you, you make the most of yourself. The DofE  is a fantastic opportunity and I am glad to say that many of our students grasp the opportunity with both hands!

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Successful Duke of Edinburgh award students in March 2017

 

In 2015-16, 71 students successfully completed their Bronze Award, alongside 9 Silver and 1 Gold. In 2016-17 that figure rose to 97 Bronze Awards, 17 Silver and 3 Gold. This year there are close to 100 students on the Bronze Award register, and almost all of them completed their assessed expedition in the searing heat of the weekend of 16th to 19th June. Their determination to succeed was fantastic, walking ten miles a day over the two days with a full pack in the blazing sun. Equally fantastic was the feedback from the official assessors: “It is probably the best Bronze expedition I have worked on from organisation, information provided to me, structure, fantastic kids, great staff to work with and food!”

Well done to all the students who have taken on the DofE challenge this year. To all those who are thinking about doing it in the future – what are you waiting for? And finally, thank you to all the staff who give up their time and energy to help make DofE run so successfully at Churchill, especially Mr Madeline and our DofE coordinator Mr Tinker.

What I believe about education

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Over the past couple of months we have been doing some deep thinking at the Academy about our purpose, our beliefs, and our values. There will be more to follow on this blog about the conclusion of that work, but this week I thought I would share with you some of what I have come to believe about education.

1. Learning

I believe that we should learn at all times, and at all costs.

2. Growth

I believe that we can all improve through effort, deliberate practice, the right attitude and an effective approach.

3. Attitude

I believe that we should build the best attitudes and behaviours for learning to enable achievement.

4. Wellbeing

I believe that achievement, progress and success bring well being and should not cost us our well being.

5. Opportunity

I believe that through taking part and making the most of the opportunities presented to you, you make the most of yourself.

And that’s it: five beliefs about education that we are using to shape the Academy’s values, vision and approach. Keep reading The Headteacher’s Blog to find out more about how we are implementing those beliefs across the school.

 

Grenfell Tower

On Wednesday of this week, I took a train into London. I was leading a course called Becoming a growth mindset school for the Association of School and College Leaders, all about the work we are doing at Churchill to develop students’ attitudes to improve the effectiveness of learning. I was up at five to catch an early train, and caught up on some reading as we sped through the morning sunshine. As we entered the urban sprawl of the capital, I put my book down and glanced through the window.

That was when I saw it.

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Grenfell Tower, June 14th 2017

I’d seen on the news on my phone that the Grenfell Tower was ablaze, but I hadn’t realised how close to the tragedy my train would pass. A column of smoke stretched up high into the cloudless sky. A helicopter hovered overhead. The tower itself was a blackened shell. Hoses sprayed water over the smouldering walls. Through the train window it was curiously silent, like a TV on mute – but real. Horribly real.

The survivors – those who made it out of the nightmare – have lost everything. Their clothes, possessions, their money, their documents. They are replaceable, of course, but my thoughts drifted to family photographs, heirlooms, those special things you keep not because of their monetary value but because of what they mean to you. Those things are irreplaceable. But the survivors are the lucky ones. Some – how many we still don’t know – have lost their loved ones, and lost their lives.

The next day, on Thursday, I heard about Ines Alves, a 16-year-old student at Sacred Heart School in Hammersmith. She was revising for her Chemistry GCSE on the 13th floor of Grenfell Tower when her father noticed smoke rising from the fourth floor. She quickly dressed in jeans and a top, grabbed her phone and her revision notes, and ran. She and her family got out of the building safely. “I was trying to revise while we waited downstairs as we thought it was a small fire at first but it was impossible,” she told the Daily Mirror.

Still wearing the clothes she had worn when she fled the tower, Ines went to school in the morning to sit her exam. “Considering what had happened I think the exam went OK. I want to do A-level chemistry and I need an A in science so I was thinking of my future when I decided to sit the exam,” she said. And she wasn’t the only one.

After the exam, Ines went back to rejoin her family and distribute food and water around the community centres as part of the relief work. “I just wanted to do all I could to help,” she said.

Being so close on Wednesday to such a shocking event has deeply affected me. It’s easy to say “my thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy,” but I haven’t stopped thinking about them. Stories like that of Ines Alves show that, in the midst of tragedy, there are people – especially young people – full of determination, courage, kindness and hope. Even amidst the horror, there is always hope.

The Alan Turing Building

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Alan Turing at age 16 (1928)

It is with great pride that we have named our new Computing, Business Studies and Social Sciences building The Alan Turing Building, in honour of the great war hero and father of modern computer science. Alan Turing died on this day, June 7th, in 1954.

Who was Alan Turing?

Alan Turing was born on 23rd June 1912, and is widely credited as the founder of computer science. He is best known for his work at Bletchley Park in the Second World War, where he and his team of codebreakers successfully cracked the Enigma Code used by Nazi Germany to communicate with its Navy. His work is thought to have shortened the war by two to four years, saving between 14 and 21 million lives in the process.

Alan Turing was educated at Sherborne School in Dorset, and later at King’s College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge, Turing came across an unsolved mathematical problem – the question of Decidability, the Entscheidungsproblem. Turing set out to work out whether there could be a definite method by which it could be decided whether any mathematical assertion was provable. In order to answer this question, he came up with the idea of the Universal Turing Machine – a theoretical machine which would follow the instructions laid out by a “programmer” in order to complete mathematical tasks. In other words, he invented the idea of a computer.

Four-rotor German Enigma cypher machine, 1939-1945.

A German Enigma cipher machine (source)

It was this theory which was turned into practice at Bletchley Park. He created a machine called “Victory” in the Spring of 1940 which was able to crack the German military code-machine, Enigma. By 1943, Turing and his team were cracking a total of 84,000 different Enigma messages every month – two messages every minute. Every time the Germans introduced a new code or cipher, Turing’s machines were able to crack it.

 

Turing’s Bombe computer, rebuilt at Bletchley Park (source)

Following the war, Turing worked on developing his code-breaking machines into universal computers, paving the way for the technology revolution which has transformed all of our lives. But nobody at the time knew of the contribution that Alan Turing had made to the end of the war, as his work was classified top secret until 1974.

Turing had been openly gay since his time at Cambridge. However, homosexuality was a criminal offence at the time, and he was arrested for gross indecency and came to trial in March 1952. He did not deny his actions or defend himself; he said he saw no wrong in being gay, and told the police he believed homosexuality should be legalised. Rather than go to prison, he accepted a form of “chemical castration” – a year-long programme of hormone injections designed to suppress his sexuality. On 8th June 1954 his body was found; he had taken cyanide poison. The coroner’s verdict was suicide.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, and in 2013 Alan Turing received a royal pardon, removing his criminal record. He is now widely recognised as a war hero and a pioneer in Mathematics and Computing.

Why the Alan Turing Building?

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The Alan Turing Building at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, opened June 2017

Turing represents the best of British innovation, using his expertise in mathematics to solve unsolvable problems, save millions of lives, and change the face of technology. He also represents equality, refusing to hide or be ashamed of who he really was, no matter what other people thought. In both ways, Alan Turing has changed our society for the better. We hope that the students educated in this building, dedicated to Computing – the subject he invented – along with Business Studies and the Social Sciences – will embody the same spirit of innovation and equality, and go on as he did to make the world a better place.

Inside the Alan Turing Building

These photographs, taken during the final fit-out of the Alan Turing Building, show the Smarter Spaces colour scheme designed by our students. This light and airy space, equipped with brand new computers and interactive displays, will be a superb facility for our students today and far into the future and, we hope, a fitting tribute to someone whose story we think everyone should know.

Leavers 2017

It’s been an emotional day at Churchill as we’ve said goodbye to our Year 11 and Year 13 cohorts, wishing them well as they head off on study leave for their exams. We look forward to welcoming many of our Year 11 students back into the Sixth Form in September, and we will continue to follow the careers of all our leavers with interest and pride.

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Year 13 Class of 2017

The day began with saying goodbye to Year 13. This wonderful group of students have contributed so much to Churchill in their years with us, and they will be sorely missed!

Year 11, having jumped the hurdle of a two-and-a-half-hour English Literature exam this morning, celebrated their time at the Academy in traditional style, with signed shirts, good humour, and a few tears. They did their final practice for the Ball, nailing their tango and salsa moves and managing the processions beautifully.

Ballroom dancing practice…bring on the Ball!

A post shared by Churchill Academy & Sixth Form (@churchillacademy) on

The farewell assembly is something I look forward to all year, and this year the staff excelled themselves with their Farewell Video, expertly directed and edited by Mr Kingscote. Enjoy:

My final message to all our leavers is captured in the following quotation from my Headteacher hero, Albus Dumbledore:

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We are all born with different abilities, different predispositions, different advantages and disadvantages in life. But these are not limiting factors. We are not bound by our circumstances.  We can choose to make the most of the situations we find ourselves in, choose to take chances and opportunities when we have them, choose to take on the difficult challenge or the easy option. It is these choices that define us all. I hope that Churchill has provided all of our leavers with the knowledge and skills to make the best choices, so you can be what you truly are and deserve to be.

Keep in touch!

How to revise #6: concrete examples

This is the sixth and final post in a series looking at the most effective ways to revise, based on the work of The Learning Scientists. The Learning Scientists are cognitive psychologists who want to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students and teachers. Their aim is to motivate students to study and increase the use of effective study and teaching strategies that are backed by research. I’ve met Yana Weinstein PhD at an education conference in Southampton – she’s the real deal!

Read all the revision posts here.

Concrete examples: what is it?

Concrete examples help you to remember abstract or difficult ideas by finding ways in which they can be applied in the real world.

Concrete examples: why?

Ideas on their own are difficult to remember. If you have a good example of how an idea is applied, it is much easier then to remember the idea itself.

Concrete examples: how do I do it?

Keep note of examples of concepts, ideas, and theories provided in class, either by your teacher or in textbooks or other resources. Also, try to think of examples for yourself. For example, if I am trying to remember the idea that repetition is an important rhetorical device used in public speaking, it’s much easier if I think about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech which repeats “I have a dream” eight times and “let freedom ring” ten times. In this case, the speech is a concrete example of the effective use of repetition in public speaking. If I remember the speech, I remember the idea of repetition as a rhetorical device.

Concrete examples: next steps

Checking that the examples you are using are accurate is really, really important. If you are able to create your own examples it’s a sign that you have fully understood a concept or idea.  And don’t assume that examples you find on the internet are necessarily correct – always double check with a reliable source. Check your examples with your teachers just to make sure.

Concrete examples: watch the video

Student Voice: behaviour in and out of the classroom

Over the course of this year, I am visiting all the tutor groups in the school. In my visits I am asking the students for their views and advice on different aspects of our provision at the Academy. Between January and April I asked students to reflect on two questions:

  1. What makes a good attitude in the classroom?
  2. What makes good behaviour at social time?

Tutor groups responded in lots of different ways. Some groups put together presentations, others worked in small groups on the questions, whilst others involved me in a whole-group discussion. What they all had in common was lots of brilliant ideas about the topic!

At the end of the process I had visited twenty-seven tutor groups and heard  the views of around 600 students. Over Easter, I gathered together all their thoughts and ideas. They had told me what they thought about the best way to ensure they learned effectively, and they had come up with lots of excellent suggestions for how they should behave at social time. Below, you can see the fruits of their labours:

Term 3 and 4 Positive Social Time

Term 3 and 4 Positive Classroom Attitudes

Student Voice Feedback Terms 3 and 4

These posters have been shared with all teachers and tutor groups this week, and many have been discussing it in their tutor time sessions to help everyone improve and maintain the highest standards of behaviour in school.

Over terms 5 and 6 I am getting the views of students about our Academy values of Care, Inspire, Challenge and Achieve – do they represent the Academy? What influence do they have on our day-to-day life at Churchill? And what should we value? I’ll report back when I’ve heard what they have to say!